My baby has suddenly started to refuse Dad putting her to sleep. My husband is really sad about this. I would like it to change if we can..?
Find tips on what to do!
It is very common for babies to prefer only one of the parents in various (or all) situations.
It is exhausting for the preferred parent and sad for the rejected one.
In this post, I answer a mom who reaches out because her baby refuses to sleep for dad and gets really upset if he tries to put her to bed.
Here’s Mom’s question:
My baby suddenly started to refuse her dad to put her to sleep.
We have got our 11-month-old baby on a pretty good sleep schedule and try not to get her out of her crib when she breaks it.
Over the last week, though, her teeth have been really sore, and she has been waking up a lot. Most of the time, she goes back to sleep with just a rub on the back from me.
She has, however, started to freak out if her daddy tries to get her back to sleep. She pushes his hand away and calls for me. When he finally gives in and picks her up, she still freaks until he gives her to me, and then she calms right down and hugs me. She usually needs to breastfeed to get back to sleep but doesn’t insist on doing it right away. She just wants me to hold her.
My husband has been really sad about this as he used to be able to snuggle her to sleep. He works some nights, and with her being on a good schedule, she has only been getting up to nurse for a while now.
Could it just be because it has been so long since he got up with her, or maybe because I was the one who stayed with her for hours, putting her back down when she was first learning to stay in the crib?
Does he need to persevere, or could this just be a stage she is going through? She has never acted strangely with anyone and is always really happy to see him when he comes home from work. Maybe Mommy and Daddy are just for different things now? Indeed, she won’t play the same way with me as with him.
Anyways, I have lots of theories but no real clue as to why she refuses to sleep for Dad . I would like it to change if we can. Your opinion would be appreciated.
Tips When Baby Refuses to Sleep for Dad
Poor dad! I’d say things like this happen with most children, and usually, mom becomes the favorite simply because we tend to be around more. With that, I don’t mean favorite in a sense “loved more”, but only preferred because of habit really.
Here are some possible ways forward.
Give Dad Full Responsibility at Night
It is quite likely that the fact that you are the one most often attending to your daughter at night is why she is pushing dad away.
If you really want to change that right now, you’ll probably have to give him full responsibility at night – every night, at least for a while.
However, this might be too tough for all of you to implement right now.
In addition, you mention that Dad works at night sometimes. This means that even if Dad longs to snuggle with your daughter, it is a change of her routines for HER, and maybe not at all what she expects, wants, and needs when she wakes up at night.
Babies are routine lovers.
Instead, try the two tips below first, and once these things work, you can move to let Dad handle the nights.
Let Dad Handle the First Sleep Routine in the Evening
Another possibility is to let Dad take charge of the first sleep routine in the evening or possibly during the naps in the daytime.
The trick is to really let the two of them find their own (new) way without any interference. This way, they’ll find their own new routines, and your daughter will know that she can rely on these cozy routines with her dad.
Put Baby in Your Bed When She Wakes Up
Another thing you could try is not to keep her in your arms to go back to sleep at night, but rather put her in your bed in between the two of you for a while.
This way, both mom and dad will be around, which might mean that she’ll accept dad helping her in a while.
However, you need to be cautious about co-sleeping since it can be a real risk for your baby. So either stay awake or make sure you have implemented all necessary risk mitigations for co-sleeping. Your baby is 11 months, which means the risk of SIDS is relatively low, but other parents with younger babies need to make sure they follow co-sleeping safety guidelines if they think they might fall asleep.
Handle Your Own Emotions
While all this goes on, how mommy and daddy – and especially daddy – feel about it is probably even more important than the actual situation; your daughter probably doesn’t see a problem; she wants mom…
I asked my husband what his best dad-to-dad advice would be in this situation; obviously, he’s been there many times. This is what he said:
Try to let go of the feeling of disappointment and/ feeling sad or jealous or even angry with your wife. The child needs who she needs, and this varies over time. Instead, spend as much time as is ever possible with your daughter, and the reward will come!
What children need the most to feel safe with a certain person (mom, dad, or whoever) is time together. Be cool about this specific situation, don’t force anything. Instead, be with her a lot in a positive way, day or night.
So, I guess our combined tip is to let the girl have Mom when she wants to and make sure dad is let in whenever possible. Remember that it is common for a baby refuses to sleep for dad. It is common for toddlers too!
Talk through a strategy (including naps, bed-sharing, or whatever) if the nights are important for you.
You can find many parents dealing with similar situations and discussing it here, too.
Find Other Ways to Bond
Remember that there are many, many possibilities to bond for baby and dad in addition to this specific sleep situation.
It might be better to focus elsewhere and build an even better relationship that way.
Of course, it is easy to focus on what is NOT working – (baby refuses to sleep for dad, oh NO…). But try to put light on what is working instead and do more of that. It is more fun and probably easier than trying to “win” the sleep situation through some power struggle.
I wish you good luck!
Hey parents, who else’s baby refuses to sleep for dad? Or was? If you have tips to share or a question, leave a comment below!
You’ll find many more bonding questions and answers here.
Paula Dennholt founded Easy Baby Life in 2006 and has been a passionate parenting and pregnancy writer since then. Her parenting approach and writing is based on studies in cognitive-behavioral models and therapy for children and her experience as a mother and stepmother. Life as a parent has convinced her of how crucial it is to put relationships before rules. She strongly believes in positive parenting and a science-based approach.
Paula cooperates with a team of pediatricians that you find here. They write or review all health-related articles.
This Post Has 7 Comments
It’s not the bonding that’s the issue. It’s that my wife refuses to be awake except for 10 minutes to feed or she’ll scream at me, so I am the ONLY person getting baby to sleep… Except baby refuses to do anything but scream for me, no matter what I do, so therefore I just have two people screaming at me multiple times a night. “If baby won’t sleep for your then play with baby instead!” Doesn’t cut it for me
Yes the article is not about your situation. You really seem to be going through a tough time. Having a new baby can be extremely tough and exhausting. Is there any chance that you and our wife could get councelling together, or if she could get support somehow – she seems to be very exhausted. Babies can also pick up our stress, so no wonder your baby can’t settle at night in this situation. You don’t mention how old your baby is. Young babies often really need to feed at night and they also wake up for comfort. Would it be possible for your wife to pump, so you can bottle-feed your baby at night at least on one occasion?
My best advice is for the two of you to sit down when you’re calm and talk through the situation with the aim to help each other and maximize everyone’s sleep. You might find some of the ideas in these articles helpful:
Good luck! (And you will get through this!)
Spreading the idea of putting your baby in your bed is dangerous because it might be a great risk for SID if you don’t state that YOU SHOULDN’T FALL ASLEEP WHILE YOUR BABY IS IN YOUR BED! People reading this are looking for advice, it has to come complete!
Also i missed any advice to dads who struggle because their baby just won’t let them go, preferring to stay in the comfort of their chest and big arm.
Please consider adding to your article! Spreading incomplete advice might put babies at danger!
Thanks for taking the time to comment! You are quite correct that there is a risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome associated with co-sleeping. Nevertheless, as many as 70% of all parents do it, and therefore it is extremely important to learn how to reduce the risks and in what situations to simply not co-sleep. In my opinion, simply stating “you shouldn’t do it, won’t be very helpful. There is also some conflicting evidence regarding dangerous it actually is if all precautions are taken. (Read more at the website for The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine about this).
Regarding dads who are preferred for sleep and comfort – no – I don’t deal with it in this article, but it is quite easy to understand why many babies would rather stay in their parents’ arms than sleep in some bed. For some tips, read this article. The person asking for help happens to be a mom, but the tips are, of course, equally valid for dads!
Thank you for your response, I too am going through this problem right now with my first-born son. He is only 4 days old and I feel intense jealousy that I hardly get to hold him or cuddle with him because he’s always hungry and attached to my wife’s breast. He cries when I try to soothe him, but all it takes is Mom’s breastfeeding to calm him. I don’t have anything like that, so I feel pretty shafted.
I just want to start a bond with my son, and I know it takes time, but I just worry. Thank you for posting what your husband said, it put me at ease.
You’re welcome! :-) It takes time to get get to know each other. Your baby is so new. It is great that you really want to bond; you’ll be a great dad! You can check out the tips in this post – on bonding with a new baby as a dad.
We are in the same situation with our 6 month old boy. He will only settle with mum. I try to hold but he just pushes me away and gets more worked up. You can tell he is looking for mum. And what makes it feel worse is as soon as in mother’s arms he goes quiet. I try not to let it bother me but it really does. He has a bit of a feed to sleep habit we are trying to break, so I want to be able to do more to help my wife be able to get more sleep.
What I do now is hold him once my wife has got him asleep after a feed for 10-20 minutes and out him down.
Currently feels a bit of a losing battle but will keep trying as I understand it isn’t a quick easy process. With him waking every hour at the moment we are both cranky.
It was good to read your response above especially your husband’s words. I am going to try and do more of the initial bed routine as I am usually putting our 4 year old to bed whilst mum does the baby.